Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fiestas, Friends & Frijoles

Last week we had a fabulous Fiesta at our home to celebrate our time here South of the Border & spend an evening with our friends as life in Mexico winds to a close. Celebrations in Mexico are always great fun & the people here love a good party. We took a trip earlier in the week to the large Mercado down on Cuauhtémoc in Monterrey to find the perfect Pinata for the party. The selection, color & size of the Pinatas was nothing short of staggering. We did however make a selection & I rode next to a 3 X 4 foot Fuzzy Butterfly Pinata on the way back home. There were several kilos of candies & little tiny plastic Puerquito toys stuffed inside the Giant Pinata. Nothing says "let's Party" like hitting a swinging paper mache' Pinata & being blindfolded. Even those novices who were new to the Pinata experience got into the fun when our Pinata was strung up from the balcony. We had far more food & beverage than could possibly be consumed by the crowd & it seemed like everyone had a Mexican dish they specialized in. Of course the cuisine in Mexico seems take center stage at any celebration. I made Frijoles Borracho which I learned to make years ago from a friend of ours who is from Mexico. I used my traditional Mexican Olla to cook the beans in. A well seasoned Olla makes the flavor even better for these tasty legumes.

Frijoles Borrachos, Drunken Beans

1 pound dried pinto beans
1 14 oz. can of Diced tomatoes, or 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 med. white onion, diced
4 slices of bacon, cut into small 1 inch pieces
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded, finely diced
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. Cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
12 ounces Sol beer
2 quarts water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash the beans thoroughly in cold water, sort beans discarding any stones or odd beans. Place the beans in a Dutch oven or well seasoned Mexican Clay Olla, and cover with water. Soak overnight. Next day, cook for 30 minutes & add the tomatoes, onions, jalapeno, garlic, bacon, oregano, and beer. Cook until the beans are tender, about another 2 hrs over low heat. With a potato or bean masher, crush the beans, to thicken the bean liquid. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls. We serve this topped with extra diced tomato, onion & cilantro.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April Beach Escape & Tasty Tortilla Dishes

Our April run to the border began last week for Semana Santa here in Mexico. Semana Santa is Holy Week in Mexico & people often take the entire week off for the holiday. In Northern Mexico much of that week is spent heading North of the Border to South Padre Island or seeking out relatives in Texas. Driving to Nuevo Laredo we kept uploading the government website for the bridge "wait times" hoping we were ahead of the rush of cars & buses seeking entry at one of several bridges. Smooth sailing at the bridges on the Mexican side looks much like the proverbial lemming rush with thousands of people crushing into too few lanes. Once across we drove several hours through familiar South Texas landmarks to our final destination of South Padre Island. The weather was blustery, the sun intermittent; however the relaxation & family time was premium. For our family the sounds of ocean waves crashing on the sand makes the cares of the world seem far away. For several blessed days we watched nothing more than the setting sun & drifting sands. (Oh there was a large rattlesnake on the sand as well...we gave him a wide berth!)

While in Port Aransas we hit Port A Seafood Company several times for incredible fish & oysters but ate so quickly no photos or recipes are forthcoming (better planning next trip)...So food wise I'll post a couple of Lenten favorites which make the cut even post Easter. Tortillas in Mexico are thought to date as far back as 10,000 B.C. According to a Mayan legend they were created by a peasant to feed a hungry king. Whatever the origin, no one can argue the importance of the Tortilla in Mexico or Mexican cuisine. While living in Mexico I have found that almost everyone who has kitchen help or has lived in Mexico very long has a favorite version of Chiliquiles either Rojo or Verde. I am particularly fond of the version favored by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. She enjoyed serving company Chiliquiles Verde. Frida loved to entertain & was fond of traditional Mexican dishes of which several are recorded in the book "Frida's Fiestas~Recipes & Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo". The other recipe I have included is a different twist on Pie Azteca which I first blogged in the traditional format in November 2008. I changed it up a bit deleting a few of the vegetables & staying with only chicken, mushrooms & white corn. These type dishes are frequently served with beans & salad of some type. The last of the Padre sand is being swept out of the car, I'm still hearing seabirds in my head but it's a comforting feeling to know my lifetime obsession of the Texas Gulf Coast keeps me anchored back home~

Chilaquiles in Green Sauce
24 medium Corn Tortillas, cut into triangles
Corn Oil1
1/2 cups. of Mexican Crema (Sour Cream can be substituted but needs to be thinned out with milk.)
1/2 lb. shredded Oaxaca Cheese


30 tomatillos, peeled & chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
5 Serrano Chiles
1/2 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. Corn Oil
Fry tortilla triangles in hot oil until golden & drain on brown paper.Cover the bottom of an ovenproof casserole (8 X 13) with a small amount of sauce & cream after spraying the pan with cooking spray. Top with 1/2 of the remaining sauce, 1/2 of the remaining cream & half of the cheese. repeat this process ending with cheese. Bake @ 375* for about 20 minutes or till the sauce is hot & cheese is golden & bubbling. *To make the sauce, puree all the ingredients except the oil with salt to taste. Saute the puree in the 2 Tbsp. Corn Oil until the flavors blend & the sauce has thickened.

Pie Azteca con Pollo

18 Flour Tortillas, cut into triangles
1 cup Roasted Chicken Breast, diced
1 small can of fire roasted Green Chiles, (Roasted Poblanos can be used instead)
3 cups Sour Cream or Low Fat Sour Cream
2 Large Eggs, beaten
pinch of ground Cumin
12 oz. Manchego, Oaxaca Cheese or Monterrey Jack grated
1/4 onion, diced
8 oz. Mushrooms, sliced
1 cup frozen or fresh white corn, thawed
1 clove garlic, diced
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 bunch of Green Onion tops, diced
salt, pepper to taste

Lightly bake tortillas @ 350 for 15 min. spread evenly on a cookie sheet, sprayed with vegetable spray.
Prepare the sauce by sauteing the onion, garlic, mushrooms & corn for 8-10 minutes, seasoning with salt & pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Mix in sour cream & 1 beaten egg with pinch of cumin & green onion tops.
In an oven proof, greased 9 x 13 casserole: layer 1/2 of the tortillas, 1/2 of the chicken & green chilis, 1/2 sour cream mixture, top with 1/2 cheese. Repeat layers ending with cheese. Bake in 350* oven for 30 minutes or till bubbling at the edge & slight golden color to the edges. Remove from heat, cool for 10 minutes, cut into squares & serve.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Minnesota Visitor & Tex-Mex Food South of the Border~

"A friend is one who walks in when others walk out"
-Walter Winchell

We were blessed last week with a visit from one of our dearest friends. Lori & I quite possibly keep the longest running conversations in history. When we reunite each time the conversation threads just pick up where we left off, whether it is years or months it matters not. Good friends are meant to be like that. So precious & therapeutic those visits are.... While Lori was here we made a tour of several museums in Monterrey. We saw an incredible Pixar exhibit at the Monterrey Museum of Modern Art, kid friendly of course but totally fascinating for adults. One of the most incredible sights in the exhibit was the Toy Story Zoetrope where claymation figures of Woody & the gang rotated, leaped & jumped. The weather was a bit on the warmish side but Lori seemed content to be thawing out her Minnesota blood & never complained. We enjoyed our time together & she took in beautiful views, the sunrises/sunsets from our idyllic little corner here in Northern Mexico. We shopped, visited & she met some of the kids at Casa Hogar Douglas when we helped feed the kids for a Saturday dinner. I believe I miss her already but then we will just pick up where we left off this visit, another high octane pot of coffee & conversation next time...

I enjoy entertaining good friends & try to keep the kitchen low pressure so the focus is on the visit versus the food. Since Lori was our neighbor in Houston several years ago she has somewhat of an appreciation for our Tex-Mex cuisine. While she was here we noshed on unsightly amounts of guacamole, fresh fruits, frijoles & several varieties of Latin American wines including our favorite Casa Madero wines.
Avocado Basil Dressing

3 Medium ripe Avocados, Peeled & seeded
1 small Shallot, chopped
2 1/2 cups Buttermilk
1/4 cup Mexican Crema
3 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh Lime or Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 Tbsp. Sugar
2 1/2 Tsp. minced Garlic
1 1/2 Tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Tsp. Black Pepper

Throw all ingredients into blender or food processor, blend till smooth, cover & chill. Store dressing in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Easy Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

13 oz. canned Chicken, drained
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
8 oz. sour cream, thinned out with 3 T. milk *Mexican Crema may be used.
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
10 oz. can of Mexican Rotel tomatoes
15 oz. Green Chili enchilada sauce, Hatch is preferred
1 small chopped White Onion
24 White Corn tortillas

Save some of the onions and shredded cheese for topping. Mix the chicken, cheeses, Rotel, and onions together. Warm the tortillas in the microwave, (either in a loose plastic bag or damp paper towel) then stuff and roll. Lay them in a pan, pour the sour cream mixture over the enchiladas, pour over the green chili sauce, then sprinkle on the remaining onions and cheese.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.